Documentary examining Operation Barbarossa, Hitler's invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941.

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Credited cast:
John Erickson ...
 Himself - Historical consultant
Stephen Walsh ...
 Himself - Historical consultant
 Narrator (voice)


In 1941, Nazi Germany, seemingly near invincible in its military might despite its failure to break the UK in the Battle of Britain, makes one of its most disastrous military moves. Despite the danger of a two front war and the existence of a non-aggression pact, Hitler orders the full scale invasion of the Soviet Union. This series explores the reasons for this undertaking, its vicious nature on both sides and the general series of events of the bloodiest theater of the war that would ultimately turn the tide in the fight against the Third Reich. Written by Kenneth Chisholm (

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Release Date:

2000 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

O teleftaios megalos polemos  »

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(4 episodes) | (3 episodes)
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Excellent account of what happened when Hitler attacked Stalin
18 June 2008 | by (Glen Cove, New York) – See all my reviews

Long (originally four 50 minute parts release on DVD as one long program) but gripping account of the war between Stalin and Hitler that changed the course of the Second World War and the world. The film focuses just on the battle between the two nations and very little else. If it doesn't relate to the Hitler Stalin tussle its not included. Starting with the briefest of set ups to put the battle in context the film just tackles the war in a way that has rarely been done before.

As the film opens Hitler is feeling invincible but unsure what lay ahead since an invasion of England was far from certain and because the United States was coming into the war. Stalin knows war with Hitler is becoming but he never suspects that it would be sooner rather than later. As Hitler's troops began to amass for the attack Stalin still couldn't believe the attack was coming.

And then the dogs of war are set loose.

What follows are three of the most gripping hours I've seen on the Second World War. Bouncing between those who fought for the Germans, those who fought for the Soviets and those caught in the middle, this is as close as you are going to get to being there as you can get sixty years after the fact. Events are not just recounted but also explained we get into the mind set on both sides that caused things to happen. For example a German general is asked about an order he signed ordering the deaths of all Soviet political officers, was it not a terrible thing? The general then explains how the order came about and how it was handled matter of factly and in the course of daily activity.It just was another thing in the chain. Later the same general tries to explain (quite well actually) how many of the things that were done because how he and his fellows viewed the world differently. He doesn't excuse them, he simply asks that we look at the world from his perspective at the time. Seeing things not with our eyes today but the eyes of those in the thick of things changes what we feel.

Ultimately no one on either side is spared. The Soviet troops come off as badly as the Germans with the nastiness of the partisan soldiers being in a way more horrific since it was cruelty against its own people, The partisans should have cared, but ultimately didn't.

The story of the long slog to ruin bounces between the towns and villages over run up to the leaders in their palaces. We see the Soviet leader's uncertainty about what to do. And we see how early attempts to sue for peace lead to later executions as Stalin and his comrades had to cover up any notion that they would have ever even thought of surrender. We see how the Germans scramble as things don't go the way they thought they would (damn their timetable) Its program that you watch compulsively and will want to see repeatedly. Frankly there is just so much to this story you have to re-watch it. I was not even half way in and realized that I was missing stuff or that something I had just seen related to something earlier in such away that I wanted to go back and see it again for further clarification. Its a film thats filled with numerous "oh I see..." moments.

Not to put too fine a point on it, this is one of the best documentaries on the Second World War I've seen.

Close enough to 10 out of 10 to be a 10.

7 of 9 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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